IT surprised us, perhaps as much as it did the White House and the Republican party, that a bunch of United States media organizations, led by media networks and the New York Times (NYT) ventured last Saturday to proclaim on their own steam former vice president Joe Biden as the winner of the US presidential election on November 3.
CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox News and NYT jointly projected that Biden had secured enough electoral votes to become the 46th president of the US, defeating President Donald Trump and capturing the White House after a bitter campaign that exposed deep divides in the country.
Significantly, however, the media declaration did not follow on an official confirmation that Biden had won election. It came only after unofficial and informal tabulation of electoral college votes. Many states still have to finish their vote counts.
The media’s objective may have been to dispel the confusion and anxiety that came in the aftermath of the balloting. But this media initiative may in fact complicate the partisan rancor even more.
In issuing their declaration, the media group appeared to be egging on Mr. Biden to declare outright his victory in the election, because he had coyly stated two days after the vote that he would declare victory, if the media would call him the winner.
“I am honored and humbled by the trust the American people have placed in me and in Vice President-elect Harris,” Biden said in a statement. “In the face of unprecedented obstacles, a record number of Americans voted. Proving once again that democracy beats deep in the heart of America.”
The media declaration does not help international comprehension of the US election one whit. The election rules of most democratic countries, including the Philippines, are less complicated and less cumbersome than those of the United States.
Historically and constitutionally, it is not the function of the US media to proclaim winners in US elections, especially a presidential election. That task belongs to the official election authorities across the entire United States of America.
The tally of the popular vote does not determine the winner of the the presidential election. Instead, presidential elections have the unique US institution called the electoral college. To win the election, a candidate must receive a majority of electoral votes.
It falls on the electoral college to officially proclaim the rightful president of the US following an election. The electoral college will not convene and proclaim the 2020 president-elect until the scheduled date on December 14.
President Trump and the Republican party have due cause to take issue with Saturday’s media declaration, and to treat Mr. Biden’s subsequent victory speech as premature and hollow.
Trump’s response was, not surprisingly, pointed and blunt. He said in a statement:
“The simple fact is this election is far from over. Joe Biden has not been certified as the winner of any states… Beginning Monday, our campaign will start prosecuting our case in court to ensure election laws are fully upheld and the rightful winner is seated.”
In prospect now is a tough court battle where the Republicans and Trump’s campaign will bring forth their alleged massive evidence of voter irregularities that, at minimum, should deter anyone from calling the election; and where the Democrats and Biden’s campaign will strive to prove their claim that their man lawfully won in the election.
This will be one big fight. Each camp has an army of topnotch lawyers. And the contest could wind up in the Supreme Court, and we will see the newly confirmed Justice Amy Coney Barrett at work.
At the end of the day, we are confident that the verdict will be unequivocal: in America, every legal vote must be counted and certified, illegal votes must be tossed out, and the American people must make their choice for president of the United States.
The media can only watch.
By: The Manila Times
This article was first published by The Manila Times.